Purchase the best iPod and accessories to suit your needs
|Select the iPod based on storage capacity and cost
The storage capacity of the various iPods
on the market has a wide range. To get a sense of how much storage capacity
will be needed for your situation,
you need to determine a few things.
First of all, you need to predict how many
songs you might want to include on your iPod unit. In addition to
the bird songs you may want to store regular listening music. You
can also store photos and videos and other information (like your
calendar and contact information from Microsoft Outlook) that can also
use up storage quickly. You will need to make the cost tradeoff
relative to how much information you will want to store on your iPod.
Also, take note that the published capacity of the iPods is the total
space available and that some space is required for the software that is
used to operate the device so you will end up with a bit less available
for storage of your data.
Secondly, you need to determine how you want
to store the song files (as compressed or uncompressed files). If you intend to
try to get birds to respond to the bird calls stored on your iPod, it is
recommended that you store them in uncompressed WAV format (unchanged
from the way they are on the CDs you will be copying them from) instead
of using the compressed AAC format that is normally used for music. The birds can hear more
frequencies than humans and are less likely to recognize calls that have been
compressed (that basically remove the higher frequencies that humans
don't normally pick up).
A typical CD will hold about 700MB
(0.7GB). Some examples the storage requirements of bird song CD
sets are shown below:
||# of disks
|Stoke's Eastern Birdsongs
|Stoke's Western Birdsongs
|Cornell Bird Songs of Alaska
|Cornell Lower Rio Grande Valley and
The 4GB Nano will handle one of the
Stoke's CD sets and 1 or 2 additional CDs. The 8GB Nano will
accommodate both of the Stoke's sets and up to 4 additional CDs.
The iPod Classic units will certainly be adequate to handle all of
your bird song needs as well as the addition of photos (helpful
sometimes for bird ID purposes) and other songs or audio books.
|Select the listening device based on your needs
(earphones or external speaker)
||The iPods come with a simple set of
earphones that can be used for personal listening. You can also
purchase several different kinds of earphones to use that have different
features or comfort levels. However, if you want to be able to
play the bird songs so that others (including birds) can hear them, you
will need to select a battery powered speaker that includes its own
amplifier (sometimes called an active speaker) that can be carried in
There are a couple of units that can be
used that are not excessively bulky and that still provide reasonable
volume and reasonable tone quality. Poor speakers with limited
frequency range can also make the songs not sound the way they should.
One good choice for a speaker is the
Panasonic RP-SPT70 that has dual speakers (stereo) that is about
4-1/2" by 3-1/4" by 2" that runs on 4 AA batteries. The 2
speakers each hinge from the body so the size can be altered to make
it twice as long but half as thick. Circuit City has carried these
units and they are also available over the internet (one possibility is
Electronics Outfitter web site - select Personal and
search on "rp-spt70"). Or, you can Google search on "rp-spt70"
to get other optional sources).
Another smaller speaker is the mono
(not stereo) mini amplifier speaker from RadioShack (#277-1008C)
that is about 3-1/2" by 2-3/4" by 1-1/4". It does not have its
own interconnect cable so one would need to be purchased for it to
connect to the iPod. Unfortunately, most of the cables for
sale are a larger diameter wire that tends to be bulky and harder to
manage in the field. There is also a volume adjustment on the
speaker that is really not needed for use with the iPod since the
volume is most easily controlled via the iPod itself (and the
speaker volume control can inadvertently be changed causing the song
volume to be lower).
||One additional thing to remember when you are using
your speaker in the field is the sound output will degrade as the
batteries wear down. This will happen before the speaker can no
longer amplify the signal so you need to listen for distortion or make
note of how long you have been using the batteries and replace or
recharge the batteries as appropriate.
|Select any additional accessories that may be
helpful (recharging, FM transmitter, etc)
||The iPod battery can be charged via the
USB port cable that comes with your iPod. The cable is used to
connect to your computer and is used to download the information from
the computer to the iPod. It also provides power to the iPod to
charge the battery. The iPod comes with this cable (and with the
basic earphones). This is not always very convenient so it is
recommend to purchase a DC automobile lighter adapter and/or an AC
adapter plug-in unit for use when on the road or in a building.
The DC automobile lighter version is very handy, especially when you are
out birding and discover you forgot to charge the unit. The iPod
battery is very long lasting and usually will hold sufficient charge for
several days of birding (unless you are using it continuously).
The iPod will automatically go into sleep mode to conserve battery power
and then will also turn off if you happen to leave it on after using it
(something that can often happen).
If you want to take advantage of your
automobile speakers (or large home speakers, for that matter), there are
FM transmitters that can attach directly to the iPod that broadcast an FM signal that can be picked
up by your radio (you just match the transmit frequency to the radio
receiver frequency setting - one that won't pick up signals from local
FM stations that could interfere with the iPod output).
Several different designs of covers can
be purchased that help protect the iPod unit and, more importantly, the
plastic over top of the display. You can also purchase a film that
can be put over the display to prevent scratching the surface (and
replace the film occasionally)
can also purchase adapters that will attach to the connector at the
bottom of the iPod that will allow you to
record sounds. One such device is available from
XtremeMac that is compatible with the iPod Nano and iPod Classic
(and the older iPod Photo). It has a removable microphone that
allows you to plug in your own higher quality microphone (such as one
Sennheiser). There is additional information included on this
topic in the Recording in the Field section below.
|Select the bird songs you want to
load into your iPod (purchase CDs or pre-built software)
||There are several CDs that you can
purchase that include songs and calls of most of the bird species.
Some of these are noted in the table above but there are many more you
can choose from.
If you join the
in Forested Landscapes project to help research habitat and
conservation needs of the birds, you will be provided with a CD that
includes some bird songs and calls as well as bird mobbing calls (sounds
of birds mobbing owls). The signup page is
You can load the songs of your choice
into your computer via the program called iTunes (see below).
Another option is to purchase pre-compiled software to load to your
computer and iPod. Pre-built iPods with iBirdPod software or just
the software can be purchased from
BirdPod. I do not have much knowledge of the BirdPod software
but I believe that it is set up such that you can make additions and
alterations using iTunes once the BirdPod software is installed and that
you can use most of the following "how-to" information to alter the
information you load into your iPod.
iTunes (free off the internet) to manage
the songs on your computer
||First of all, you need to download the free program
called iTunes that is used to store the bird songs and
other information on your computer. This program is also used
to interface to the iPod to load the bird songs, music, videos and other
information to the iPod. The Apple website (http://www.apple.com/)
provides a convenient (and simple) method for downloading the program -
just click on the "iPod + iTunes" tab on the web page and click on the "Free Download"
button for the latest level iTunes program.
It is a simple operation to have the program downloaded and installed on
preferences on iTunes (to best suit your needs)
||Once the program is installed, it is best to make sure
the program preferences are set to optimum for your planned use.
To do this, open up the iTunes program and click on "Edit" and select
"Preferences" in the dropdown menu.
Click on the "Advanced" tab and then click on the
"Importing" tab. If you plan to import files in uncompressed
mode, set the "Import Using:" to WAV Encoder. If you want
files compressed then set it to AAC Encoder. Whenever you
import general music files you will want to make sure it is set to
AAC before importing them to save space on your computer and on your
iPod. It is also recommended to check the top 3 of the 4
checkboxes (see the example below). The third checkbox setting to create file names
with track number might be helpful to keep the bird calls in the
same order as they are on the CD but that is not really needed since
you will have the ability to change the order to whatever you want
in each individual playlist (you can even correct the order to the
latest taxonomical order such as moving the ducks before the loons -
see info in Playlists below).
If you don't want to listen to the songs you can either not check
the first box or you can simply turn off the songs for the CD by
clicking on pause or stop.
It is also recommended that you click on the
"General" tab in the "Advanced" folder and check the boxes for
- Keeping iTunes
folder organized (any updates you might make to the song file
Album Name or Artist will also be made to the file names and
folder so it will be easier for you to find the files if you
wish to edit the audio information contained in the files
- Copy files to iTunes folder when adding to
library (it is so much easier to let iTunes manage the files
instead of having them spread out all over your computer)
- Use iTunes as default player.
Then click on the "General" tab (to the left of
the "Advanced" tab). You can decide which information to
include. For bird songs you probably don't need party shuffle
displayed. Also, if you don't use the iPod Store, you may not
want to have that symbol show up in the library or playlist display
(where it might inadvertently get activated).
Views of the Preference windows:
Advanced - Importing
Advanced - General
Store the songs on your computer (using iTunes)
||Loading via CD
The process to copy from a CD to iTunes is quite simple. Just
insert the CD and, as long as the preference is set with iTunes as
default audio program (Advanced-General above), the iTunes program will
start up (takes a fairly long time depending on the number of songs,
etc. already loaded). If the preferences were set up to access the
internet to obtain songs, the program will automatically recognize the
CD and obtain the track information.
then choose to load the selected files to your computer. When this
happens, the Library will be updated to include the new files (and
iTunes will create the appropriate folders to store the files (can be
viewed in My Computer / Explorer)
You may wish to edit this information, especially if
the information (sometimes submitted by users) is not accurate or if you
want to limit the information to be displayed on your iPod (longer lines
are scrolled making it take longer to view the information).
||Loading individual audio files via Explorer
There are times that you might have music files that are on your
computer hard drive that you want added to the iTunes Library.
These files could be ones you might have obtained from your friends or
ones you created by editing an audio file to create a new file (such as
to split it up into separate files). One way to load the songs into
iTunes is to click on the song file (while you are viewing it in
Explorer). If iTunes is
not active, it will be loaded (as long as iTunes is set as the default
audio program) and will start playing the song. It
will also add the file to the iTunes library and will also place the
file into the iTunes folder. It can be found in Explorer in the
folders "Unknown Artist / Unknown Album" - and will be moved to the
appropriate folder when you enter information in the Artist and Album
fields. Note: to find the folders for iTunes, open Explorer and
click on the + in front of "My Documents" - then click on the + in front
of "iTunes" and then click on the + in front of "itunes Music".
If you want to load all of the files in a folder on your
computer you can open iTunes and click on "File" and then click on "Add
Folder to Library" and select the folder with the new files that have
been copied in from an outside source. All of the files will be added
to the iTunes library and to the iTunes folders.
However, in both of the above methods of
adding the songs, the only information that will be filled in in iTunes
will be the Name (it will use the same name as the name of the file).
You will need to enter the information for Artist and Album and any
other additional fields that you might want to sort by or use to set up
The process of adding this information can
be speeded up by entering the information for one song and then copying
that information (before you exit the field) using Ctrl-C and then
moving to the next song in the column, open it by clicking near the left
end of the field and pasting the information to that field using Ctrl-V.
||iTunes Library and Playlist views
||The iTunes Library will look similar to
the one shown below.
The view can be changed to
include additional columns and you can change the sort
order by clicking on the column headings.
The playlist view is very
similar to the view for the library. Each playlist can be set up
with a different view if desired. Each playlist only includes the
songs that you drag into them (regular playlist) or the songs that meet
the criteria you determine (smart playlist).
||Setting up Playlists
These playlists are quite easy to set up. They will automatically
update to ensure any time a name, artist or album name of a song is
modified, it will be included in the proper playlist. To set one
up, click on "File" (upper left corner) and then click on "New Smart
Playlist". A new screen will appear where you can set up the
conditions you want. An example would be to put in "Artist"
"contains" "Stokes" and then check the "Live Updating" box. This
would list all of the songs that are in the Stoke's East and Stoke's
West CDs (if they have been entered into your computer). You can
add multiple conditions by clicking on the "+" on the right. By
adding "Genre" "contains" "East" would limit the songs to just those
from the Stokes East CDs.
difference in views between the Library and the Playlists. There
is an additional column on the left that indicates Playlist order.
You can sort the view by any order if you wish but the playlist order is
what will show up on your iPod.
Once the playlist
is created you can rename it to anything you want. Just double
click on the name to go into edit mode to make the desired changes.
want to modify the Playlist order of the songs in the list all you need to do
(after you sort it into Playlist order) is
to move it to the location you would like by
clicking on it with the left mouse button (keep holding the mouse button down), and
then drag the line to the location where you want it in the Playlist and then release the mouse button.
You can keep your list in AOU/ABA order or group similar songs together
or whatever you think will work best for you to conveniently find the
These playlists can be created with whatever songs you may wish to
include. To create a playlist, just click on "File" and then click
on "New Playlist". Once the playlist is set up all you need to do is click
on a song you want to add (or multiple songs selected using Ctrl-click
multiple times) and then dragging it (them) to the playlist on the lower
left. You can also create a playlist by first selecting the songs
you want in the playlist (place the cursor over the song, hold the Ctrl
key down and then left click the mouse button).
You can modify the name of the playlist
and also the order of the songs the same way as
||Helpful iTunes Hints
||To search for particular songs, enter the appropriate
letters in the field in the upper right of the iTunes screen. Note
that if a playlist is being viewed, only the files in the playlist will
||To check for duplicate files (names), click on "View"
on the main menu and then click on "Show Duplicate Files" (second from
the bottom). You can then determine if the files are in fact
duplicates or if the names should be modified to more accurately reflect
||To keep songs in the iTunes Library but not load them
to the iPod, uncheck the box in the name column (precedes the song name)
and click the iPod Options button (may not be shown if the iPod is not
connected) and then choose the "Only update Checked songs" option and
click OK. This allows you to store all of your audio files on your
computer even if there is not sufficient storage for all of them on your
||The default when iTunes is first loaded is for the
Ministore portion of the screen (lower) to be displayed when the Music
Library is displayed (not when a Playlist is displayed). To remove
this and be able to see more file information, click on "View" and then
click on "Hide Ministore"
||There is no requirement as to what is entered in each
of the fields (Artist / Album / Genre / etc.). You could use
"Stokes Eastern Bird Songs" or simply "Stokes East" in the Album field.
You could also use just "Stokes" in the Artist field. The
important thing to remember is to be consistent for all songs so the
information will properly sort and will properly be included in any
smart playlist (see above).
4 Downloading the songs
to your iPod (via iTunes)
Once you have loaded the songs into your iTunes Library and
set up the songs in Playlists, you can download the information to your
This is a very simple operation since
iTunes does all of the work for you. Just connect the cable from
your iPod to your USB 2.0 port on your computer and the iTunes program
will be loaded up and connect to your iPod. It will then download
all of the song files in your Library and all of the Playlists (simply
are pointers to the specific songs in your Library).
If you make any updates to the information in your
computer such as adding songs or modifying names of birds or albums,
etc, just re-do the above operation and iTunes will update the
information on your iPod (it will only update the information and not
totally re-write everything to the iPod so the time to complete the
update will be significantly shorter).
5 Modifying Audio Files
If you aren't satisfied with how the song are structured on
the bird song CDs you may want to split up the species calls into
individual files for each species. To make this type of
modification you will need an Audio Editor program. There are
several of these editors available that you can use. One program
which is free and available for download off of the internet is called
It is suggested that you initially skip this
activity until you have had a chance to test the iPod functions and see
the information on the screen and then come back and make the changes
you prefer (and then repeat the upload to the iPod to include your
To modify the song files, first find the specific file
using Explorer (look in the iTunes folders). It is most prudent to
make a copy of the file into a folder (other than the iTunes folders)
and then work with that to avoid the chance of "over editing" and losing
some of the data. If you have a file with more than one bird
species calls on it and you want to split them, you will need to copy
the master file to create a separate file for each additional species.
You need to name it (them) with the bird species and then edit each one
to only include the song for that species.
The best method of editing the files using WavePad is
to load up the files and then identify the information that you will
want to delete from the song. The standard control buttons are
located at the bottom. Once you have determined what you want to
remove, first stop the playback by clicking on the square button at the
bottom of the screen. Then click and drag the mouse across the
section you want to delete and then release the mouse button. The
section to be removed will then be highlighted. You can then click
on the "Delete" button (or right click on the mouse to bring up a menu
where you can select "Delete"). Once you click on the "Delete" the
highlighted section will be removed. You can then test the new
file to make sure it sounds like what you want. If it doesn't you
can always undo it using the "undo" button in the upper menu (or Ctrl-Z)
and start the edit over. Once you have the bird song the way you
want it and are sure you edited the correct file (re-check the name),
then you can save the file. You will need to repeat this so you
will have a separate bird song file for each species.
You may also want to remove the spoken words for the
species name since you will have the name in front of you on the iPod
(unlike the situation with cassette tapes where you needed the voice to
help you figure out where you were on the tape). Often the spoken
words are louder than the bird songs and can cause extra work in turning
down the sound on the iPod when the voice is played and then turning the
sound back up so you can adequately hear the bird song.
Once you have created the separate files for the songs
you can edit the file in the iTunes folder to erase all of the
additional species and leave only the first species. Don't edit
the name of the file now. It is best to make that change within
the iTunes program (see below).
What you now have is a separate file for each species.
The file for the first species is already included in iTunes (and you
can edit the name in iTunes to remove the additional species names
after you bring in the additional species into iTunes. To
bring in the new files, open the iTunes program and click on "Music" in
the "Library" list. Then click on "File" to open the drop down
menu and then click on "Add file to Library". Select the files
(use Ctrl-click to select multiples) and click "Open". The new
files will be loaded into the Library and they will show up at the
bottom of the list. Only the name will be included so you will
need to edit the additional fields (i.e., Artist, Album, etc.) to make
them identical to the original file you copied them from. The file
may disappear from view once you update the information depending on
what column the Library is sorted on - you may need to scroll through
the Library to find it (look for the original - it should be in that
Once the information in the Library is to you liking,
you will need to check each of the Smart Playlists to make sure the file
is in the proper location (taxonomical or whatever). You will find
the file at the bottom of the list to begin with (if you don't see it,
you may not have checked the "Automatic Update" box when you created the
Smart Playlist). To move it to the location you would like, just
click on it with the left mouse button, hold the mouse button down, and
then drag the line to the location where you want it in the Smart
Playlist and then release the mouse button. If you want the file
to be added to another regular Playlist, you will need to add it to that
playlist the same way you added the rest, by dragging it from the
Library view into the Playlist folder at the left. You can then
reposition it where you want it as noted above.
Using an iPod in the Field (or wherever)
For a very interesting tutorial on how to
operate one of the new i-Touch or i-Phone units, see the video provided
on Raphael Sobania's web site at
www.sobania.com.br/raphael.htm. Move down the page to find the
videos marked YouTube and view the one in the upper left of the group.
The language on the screen is not English (Portugese, one would assume)
but the tutorial is spoken in English. Raphael is an ornithologist
and bird watching guide from southern Brazil.
The following information is related to
operation of the i-Pod Nano and i-Pod Classic.
Press the center button to power the
unit on. Repeatedly pressing the up button will back up to the
main menu. The items on the main menu you need to know about to
play bird songs are Settings and Music/Playlists.
To select the Settings menu move the clicker
wheel to highlight "Settings" and then push the center button.
Settings you may want to adjust are:
- Volume Limit: Select it and
press the center button. Use the clicker wheel to set it to
the max to get maximum volume output - and then be careful not to
set it too loud if you are listening with headphones.
- Backlight Timer: The backlight
turns on whenever a button is pressed unless you set it to be on all
the time. It will use up battery charge unnecessarily so you
will probably want to set it to turn off after a short period of
time. I usually set it to 15 to 20 seconds.
- Brightness: I prefer to have
this set at max so it will be easy to see in bright daylight.
- Repeat: I usually keep this
set to "Off" so I can quickly change songs without backing out to
the but there are times when I want a song to keep repeating over
and over. In that case I set it to "One" (if you do "All" it
will play all of the songs in the playlist before it will start
- Shuffle: Keep it to "Off"
unless you want to have random songs to learn the various calls or
to test your memory.
- Main Menu: This is where you
can select which items are included on the Main Menu. You can
keep most of these off (unless you use them for other purposes than
bird songs), but I would suggest you turn on Playlists so that will
be on the main menu instead of having to click on Music and then
click on Playlists (saves a step when you first turn it on).
To play songs, select Playlists (or
select Music and then select Playlists), and then you can select the
specific Playlist you want to work from. You can then select the
specific song from the list using the clicker wheel and the center
Once the song is playing you can use the
clicker wheel to change the volume (without clicking any other buttons).
The display will revert back to show how much of the song has been
played. If you click on the center button it will display a
diamond to identify where it is in the song. When the diamond is
displayed you can use the clicker wheel to move forward or backward in
the song. This might be useful if you have multiple songs on a
single file. However, it is much easier to have separate files for
If you want to pause the song, just press
the bottom button (press it again to resume). If you want to move
on to the next song, press the right button (FF). If you want to
return to the beginning of the song, press the left button (FR).
If you want to back up to a previous song, press the left button before
it plays more than a second or so of the song. If you want to move
more than 4 or 5 songs ahead or behind it is best to back up to the song
list by pressing the up (Menu) button to back up to the menu list.
A second press of the up (Menu) button will take you to the list of
Playlists if you want to play a song located in a different playlist.
If you plan to play a few specific songs and want to avoid having to
look in different playlists or avoid having to scan through several
songs within a playlist you can take advantage of the "on the go"
playlist. To use this, find the song you want to place there,
highlight the song and press and hold the center button until it blinks
once. This will place the song in the "on the go" playlist.
You can do this with several songs in order to create the playlist you
want. To find the "on the go" playlist go to the playlist menu and
scroll down to the bottom and click on "on the go" just as you would to
display any other playlist. You can delete songs from the "on the
go" list by highlighting the song you no longer want to include by
pressing and holding the center button until it blinks and then
redisplays the list.
Recording in the field
Recording voice memos in the field
If you have the iPod Photo, iPod Classic or
the latest generation iPod Nano and are interested
in recording with the unit, there is a device that can
be attached to the bottom connector of your iPod. It is sold by
XtremeMac and sells for about $60. The unit comes with a small
removable microphone and built in mini-speakers. The quality of
the microphone that comes with the unit is
insufficient to make good recordings of bird songs in the field but it can be used to
record nearby voices (i.e., memos to record sighting details - for later
manual or electronic transcriptions). This device is not capable
of being used on the early generation iPod Nano or the iPod Shuffle.
It has a very simple on-screen interface
that activates as soon as it is plugged to the iPod. You can
record immediately or press the up (Menu) button to set the Quality
level (High or Low). The sample rate is 44.1KHz at the High
setting and is 22.05 KHz at the Low setting. You
can pause the recording with the bottom button (press it again to
resume). When you are done recording you just move the clicker
wheel to select the "Stop and Save" line. Click the center button
and it will display the new recording (shows the date and time of the
recording). You can then play the recorded information using the
built in speaker or the speaker or earphones you have attached to the
iPod. You can delete the recorded memos as well if you desire.
You can use the iPod in its normal
manner, even with the recording unit attached. To find newly
recorded memos, back out to the main menu and select either "Voice
Memos" or "Extras" and then select "Voice Memos" (may need to make sure
they are turned on in the settings section).
Once you connect the iPod to your
computer (for update, recharge, or whatever), the Voice Memos will be
uploaded from the iPod to the computer and will then be automatically
placed in a Playlist called "Voice Memos". It will be removed from
the "Extra" / "Voice Memos" location. The iPod update process will
then include a download of the newly updated Playlist. Therefore,
updated memos will be located in the Playlist while newly created memos
will be found in the "Extra"/"Voice Memo" location.
Recording bird calls in the field
If you want to try to record bird calls in the
field, you can use the attachment device described above (using the High
quality setting) but you will
need a high priced directional microphone to be able to get a reasonable
quality recording. The microphone that comes with the
device unplugs and you can easily plug in your own microphone using a
standard 3.5mm plug. One possible example is a
ME67. With the amplifier and windscreen, this mike will run about
$500. Another possible shotgun mike available from Saul Mineroff
Electronics is the
SME ATR55 at a cost of about $85. There are other options available but the recording quality
will undoubtedly vary (probably proportional with the price).
I'm open to suggestions for improving
(or augmenting) the information included above. The intent is to
assist people get started in using iPods for birding. If you
have a question, send me a note (e-mail Editor on home page).